House to cooperate in Ombudsman’s probe of pork barrel scam–Speaker

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House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines — With Congress taking a hit from the P10-billion pork barrel scam, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said the House of Representatives would fully cooperate and provide all necessary documents in the investigation of the controversy involving legislators who supposedly channeled public funds to their own pockets.

Belmonte said on Tuesday that helping in the probe conducted by government agencies such as the Office of the Ombudsman, the Commission on Audit, and the Department of Justice would help Congress as an institution.

Belmonte added that he would not let his personal ties with anyone affect the probe.

“I promise to give full cooperation to them in terms of records. I will provide 100 percent cooperation. Friendships aside, this is really a blot on all of us. It is necessary for the sake of the institution that we cooperate with the authorities,” Belmonte told reporters.

Five former House lawmakers, but no incumbent representatives, have been included in the plunder and malversation cases filed before the Office of the Ombudsman in connection with the misuse of their priority development assistance funds. The DOJ is set to file more cases, which it will do in batches.

Belmonte said only a handful of the nearly 300 House members had been implicated in the issue, and majority of them “handle their PDAF very well to the satisfaction of the people.”

But he also said he was concerned about those who had several questionable transactions involving their pork barrel, as it might be difficult for them to proclaim their innocence.

“I’m really concerned about people who repeatedly do it because it’s very hard for them to claim good faith. If it happened to you one time, especially if another friend said that’s okay, maybe you could be innocent,” he said.

“But if you repeatedly do it… of course, one comes to a different conclusion,” he added.

Belmonte said he has not talked recently with any of the former lawmakers who have been included in the complaint, but he would lend a sympathetic ear should they try to talk to him. Still, Belmonte said, he would let the wheels of justice turn.

He also commiserates with Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, one of three senators included in the plunder complaint for allegedly receiving kickbacks from their pork barrel.

He said he has not met with Enrile lately.

“As a personal friend, I’d like to commiserate with him, but at the same time, I have no intention of interfering or doing anything in any way. It’s just really a personal thing,” he said.

He added that as leaders of their respective chambers in Congress, he and Enrile’s working relationship has been very good.

Meanwhile, Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, president of the Lakas Christian Muslim Democrats, said on Tuesday, he was saddened by the filing of a plunder complaint against his party-mate, Lakas chair and Sen. Bong Revilla Jr., over the alleged diversion of his pork barrel funds.

But Romualdez said he was glad that with the filing of the case with the Ombudsman, the trial by publicity against Revilla would stop.

“We have faith the wheels of justice will turn. We hope he will be able to acquit himself in the court of law,” he said.

He expressed hope that politicians from the opposition would not be subjected to a double-standard of justice.

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